The walk to pick up a grandchild from school takes only ten quick adult minutes. But if I am accompanied by his younger brother the walk takes thirty minutes, because little Luke finds wonders all along the sidewalk. We investigate ant trails, bees gathering pollen in weeds, pecans spilled from overhead branches, rocks that surely contain fossils. My efficient adult walk completes a task. My languid little boy walk nourishes our relationship and opens my senses to God’s creation alive in the suburbs.
My Advent can pass quickly as I check off tasks and hurry through the whirlwind of activities to arrive at Christmas Day. Or my Advent can take a slower path where I look and listen and feel God’s presence in my world. I still arrive at Christmas Day, but the wonders are spread all along the way.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
Sadly, these verses do not reflect the world in which we live. In this season of hope, let us pray for an end to violence, hatred, greed, and poverty, and for a stronger outpouring of love, kindness, gentleness, and peace. May Christ be our light!
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17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21: 17-18
I can’t remember a time when the coming of Advent has been so welcome. Hope for a world in chaos. Hope that God is creating something new in the midst of hatred, despair and judgment. Hope that our pointing fingers at one another will be replaced with open arms to embrace a new peace that we have never known before. Hope that those with ears to hear and eyes to see will not be deceived and will hear your voice and see your face in the stranger. Hope that we choose real life.
O Holy One of hope, we pray that this time of waiting will prepare us for the new creation you have for the world. We pray that we are wide awake to recognize you in the midst of the chaos around us. In the name of the Coming One we pray. AMEN
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12
Advent and the scripture readings that accompany it present us with many images but none more predominant than the image of light. I think it is difficult to absorb the depth of the meaning of Jesus as our Light in this day and time without imagining earlier times when there was no light at the flip of a switch and the darkness of the short days of autumn made difficult or impossible the daily business of both households and communities. It has been easiest to know Jesus as my Light when in the hours before sunrise far from the light of large cities, I’ve found myself in total darkness – a truly awesome and potentially frightening encounter. And how welcome and beautiful has been the first break of daylight – the “light that dispels the darkness.”
In celebrating the coming of the light of Christ this Advent, I celebrate the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago, the light Jesus’ life and Good News gives my life and the lives of others today, and the vision I hold for the fulfillment of Christ’s Kingdom to come. I anticipate and celebrate love, hope and faith not just because of what Jesus did but also because of who Jesus is for me and for the world this moment – a Light in the darkness of disappointment, hurt, humiliation and loss and a Light of Anticipation for the time when “all things will be made new.”
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
There is a sadness that overwhelms me each year as Christmas Day approaches. For the feeling of loss from miscarriage two days before Christmas fourteen years ago remains with me. Celebrating birth in the midst of grief and mourning seems almost impossible. The music that should be joyful seems flat. The parties that should be celebrations seem to be obligations. Giving to others is difficult when barely able to muster the strength for the daily routine. It is a darkness I had not met before.
Meeting Mary in this darkness during Advent is something that began to grow new light in my life. In the midst of darkness, how does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord? In the mist of predicament, how does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord? In the midst of being poor and uncertain, how does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord? In the midst of being an outsider on the margins, how does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord?
Fully. Completely. Unquestionably. Wholly thine.
It occurs to me that I do not have to be a bundle of happiness for my soul to magnify the Lord. I do not have to rejoice with a smile upon my face. In fact, when I look at many icons of Mary, she is not smiling. There is a knowing in these characterizations of Mary that there will be sadness and darkness with the joy.
But the joy of magnifying the Lord allows the light to break through. This is the faith that carries us over the mountains and through the deserts. This is the provision of the Lord that brings hope, peace, joy and love.
So what if we began every day with Mary’s song. My soul magnifies the Lord! And my spirit rejoices in God my savior! For I am blessed! In the midst of darkness, knowing the faithfulness of God brings light into my soul. Advent light.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning.3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (NIV)
Every year, the Christmas lights go up earlier—our local warehouse store had some up before Halloween. Maybe we’ll see them over Labor Day next year. And, there are some really tacky displays. I remember “Go Oilers” written in blue lights above a manger scene in Houston years ago. In our ‘active adult’ community, many homes still squeeze massive displays from former large properties onto these little postage size lots. While it would be easy to write off all this as people who ‘just don’t get’ the real meaning of Christmas, I choose to view the lights as reminders of the amazing claims made in today’s reading.
Jesus was with God from the beginning, and He is God. The life he brings is the light of man, and made flesh He is uniquely qualified to bring it into the world. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. Later, in Jn 12:35-36, Jesus calls for us to believe so that we might be the children of light. “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”
So, I will try to absorb some of the light from the holiday décor, taking it as a personal reminder to me that I must never miss an opportunity to be in the Presence. I will take this offering of the “light of life” while I have it.